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Another “America’s Rarest Cartoon” Auction

As Fine Books and Collections describes it:

America’s rarest, rabble-rousing poke-in-the-eye to British Parliament – a seldom-seen political cartoon celebrating the 1773 Boston Tea Party – is expected to sell for more than $20,000 after surfacing in Heritage Auctions’ Aug. 25 Americana auction. It was published mere months after the Sons of Liberty, disguised as Mohawk Indians, took to Boston Harbor and destroyed more than 92,000 pounds of tea. Just six copies of the copper engraved cartoon are known in institutional holdings.



From the Heritage Auctions site:

“Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression” Prohibitively Rare Copper Engraved Cartoon Celebrating the Boston Tea Party. 13.5″ x 10″ [sight] copper engraved cartoon on laid paper, double-matted and framed to an overall size of 19″ x 15.5″. One of the most significant cartoons of the pre-Revolutionary period.

Attributed to the Philadelphia & New York engraver Henry Dawkins, published after December 27, 1773, but before April 1774. The rather busy and caption-filled cartoon shows British politicians & merchants in league with the devil, on the left side, and American colonists (seven dressed as Indians representing those at the Boston Tea Party)) on the opposing right side (labeled Boston, New York and Delaware Bay). Captions at the bottom serve as a “key” to the people and symbolic figures depicted. The men on the left side are, for the most part, representatives of the East India Company, along with Philadelphia Loyalist Dr. John Kearsley, Jr. The men in the lower right are colonial merchants who opposed the Tea Party, but deem it better to acquiesce, now that the deed is done. “The people have discovered our design to divide them, & we shall never be able to regain their confidence.” The Goddess of Liberty says “Behold the Ardor of my sons and let not their brave Actions be buried in Oblivion.” The lead Indian exclaims “We will secure our freedom, or die in the Attempt.”


Not part of a newspaper, an independent flier.

The cartoon shows that word balloons are not a comparatively recent cartoon innovation and…

Probably published in Philadelphia or New York, the cartoon is attributed to Henry Dawkins, an engraver who was arrested in 1776 on suspicion of counterfeiting continental and provincial currency, which resulted in a $1,500 fine.

the artist’s profile shows that cartoonists have long been scalawags.




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